[short story, by Sha’Tara]
“Come over here, look down in the garden. Listen.”
The older woman sitting in the rocking chair gets up slowly and holding on to her cup of tea, comes over and looks. In the garden a small child, a girl, is playing among rows of carrots and beets. She holds a doll in one arm and as she passes her free hand over the carrot tops, she addresses her doll,
“We can’t pull these up yet you know, they haven’t grown enough. Just like you, they are just too young. But it’s OK to caress their hair, they like that. When the sun goes down you and I will water them, just like my momma says. I’m your momma now, so you have to do what I tell you, see?”
The two women at the open window can hear every word the child speaks to her doll. The woman who had been standing at the window watching the child has tears in her eyes.
“Did you hear, Ellie? She called me her momma. I have a child, finally. She needs me and she trusts me. Isn’t that amazing?”
The older woman replies, “It is amazing in a way Viv, yet not. Where would the child be now if you hadn’t taken her off the streets when you did last year? And how could you not? As you so graphically described it to me then, you found her sitting on the ground beside a garbage can, holding her dead mother’s hand and crying, begging her mother to wake up. Dear God Viv, who would not be moved by such a sight and such a need?”
“And yet Ellie, what I did, what I am doing, is illegal! All I know of her family is that her mother died of a drug overdose and there was no record of a child. The fringe dwellers, Ellie. The homeless, the lost and forgotten. What a terrible, unconscionable mess we are making of everything.”
“But out of that mess is that child, Viv.”
“I know. Yet for several days after I took the child in I was filled with blind hatred for her mother. How could she? How could a mother choose her own lusts over the needs of her child, if indeed it was her child? So I told myself the girl wasn’t hers but a waif she had been paid to look after. Who knows?
“Now I worry. What happens when I have to report her to the authorities if or when she needs medical attention? When she has to attend school? God, look at her. Just look at that beautiful innocence. Will they let me keep her? Adopt her? I’m so scared Ellie. Even if I can comfortably support both of us on my income, I live alone and I am forty-five years old! How can I guarantee I can keep her?”
“You worry too much Viv. Not all bureaucrats are heartless creeps. We must, we will, find people familiar with this sort of situation who will be empathetic and able to help with the legal difficulties. I’m not without means either, Viv. I know people and when you are ready to go public, as I assured you a year ago, I will be there for you.
“If everything else fails, I have worked out a plausible scenario for us all. If they won’t let you adopt her, Nicholas and I will. We’ve discussed it and he’s in full agreement. Then we will become one family and you will have her. She will take your name, live with you and we will continue to be grandpa and grandma. You will always be her mom. Do you see a problem with that?”
Viv wipes her face, sighs and taking her eyes away from “her” child, turns to face her old friend. “No one could have a better friend than you, Ellie. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“Yes, I have been, I am, I will be your good friend. But when we register her, what shall we call her?”
“I’ve been calling her Nicole. She seems to have a particular attachment to that name. It could even be her real name.”